Channel 4 have released a new YouGov poll of marginal seats that projects a Conservative majority of between 60-70 seats were it to be repeated at a general election.

The last time YouGov carried out a marginals poll like this was at the tail end of October, when the Labour lead in national polls had narrowed to high single figures, but had get to reach the tighter position we saw towards the end of last year. Back then it showed the shares of support in the target seats at CON 43%, LAB 38%, LDEM 12%. Today that has moved to CON 43%, LAB 36%, LDEM 13% – so there has been a slight move against Labour. This is, again, pretty much in line with YouGov’s national polls which showed a 8 point Tory lead back in October and an 11 point Tory lead now. The movements in the marginal seats seem to be much the same as the national picture.

Expectations on the economy are low – only 14% say they agree with the government’s predictions that the economy will turn around this year. 41% think Britain will not come out of recession till 2010 and 32% think it will be even longer. They are also very pessimistic about whether the government’s actions to tackle the crisis will work. A rather pathetic 2% think they will make a big difference, 23% think they will make a small difference, but that this is worth the money. 35% think they will make a small difference and are a waste of money, 29% think they will do nothing at all.

Taking a slightly wider view on how the government have responded to the crisis, the public in marginal seats are split more evenly. 12% think they have responded well, 32% think have moved in the right direction, albeit not quickly or effectively enough – giving about 44% of people in marginal seats with a broadly positive view. In contrast, 18% think their strategy is wrong and they are doing more harm than good and 26% think they are taking panic measures with no clear strategy at all.

A large majority of people in marginals expect that the borrowing now will result in spending cuts or tax hikes later, the only difference is how large they expect them to be. 32% expect some spending cuts or tax hikes, 40% expect “big” cuts or tax hikes. Only 9% expect ecnonomic growth alone to deal with the present borrowing.

Moving on, there is agreement (58% agree, 33% disagree) that Gordon Brown is refusing to acknowledge the depth of the crisis. However, there is also agreement that “David Cameron is talking the economy down for political purposes” – 53% agree, 30% disagree. There is also strong agreement that the last Conservative government did little or nothing to help the victims of recession in the 1980s. This statement was agreed with by 60% of people, however, a significant minority (40%) of those people expected that David Cameron would do far more to help people than Thatcher’s government did in the 1980s.

Another question that caught my eye was on who was to blame for Britain’s economic problems. There have been countless polls asking this sort of question over the past months, but annoyingly few that have repeated the same wording, letting us see if people are blaming the government more or less as time passes and arguments come and go. Here YouGov have used the same words, and we can see the position has steadied, with blame firmly upon the banks. When YouGov first asked the question of people in marginal seats in September blame was spread between the general international situation in the food and energy markets (26%), irresponsible banks (36%) and the government’s policies (29%). By October blame has focused squarely upon the banks (61%, with 11% saying general international situation and 21% the government). Today’s poll shows little change, 7% international conditions, 63% the banks and 22% the government.

Finally, YouGov asked if people in marginal seats thought George Osborne or Ken Clarke would make a better chancellor after the next election. 39% backed Ken to George’s 15%. Amongst Tory voters they backed Ken by 46% to 28% for George.

95 Responses to “YouGov poll of marginal seats”

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  1. Can someone better at swings and things tell us what swing away from Labour this represents from the last GE?

  2. Damn…should have said:


  3. This really is the poll that matters, and conservative HQ should be pleased, but not complacent.

    Gordon Brown should be feeling even more grumpy than ever, but a small crumb may be that many people remarkably don’t seem to be holding his govenment primarily responsible.

    cameron should take head of the warning that he is being seen to talk down the economy – always a difficult task – to be seen to bring the govt to account, but not to be making the situation worse

  4. Answering my own question – according to the chatter on politicalbetting this is an 8.6% swing from Labour to the Conservatives from the last GE.

  5. Now that Brown has used the ‘d’ word it will be much harder to accuse Cameron of talking down the economy. Worryingly it begins to look as if the facts will show Cameron to have underestimated rather than exaggerated the problem.

  6. I find the Labour spin that Cameron “talks down the economy” even more laughable than most. The simplest measure of the state of the economy can be measured by jobs lost and companies placed into administration.

    Does anyone believe that the company directors of Woolworths et al., pay any attention to the leader of the opposition when they are deciding on sacking workers or closing down a company? Until the Tories are in government, all fault lies at Gordon’s door.

  7. I wish pollsters would ask whether Mandelson is proving a better PM than Brown.

    In fact, questions about Mandy seem curiously absent from the polls. Or did I just miss them?

  8. There is a difference between pointing out problems with the economy in a constructive way, and talking it down, which I feel the Tories have come dangerously close to doing with their ‘cap in hand to the IMF’ and saying the UK was about to have its credit ratings slashed.. both of which seem highly unlikely. Even Ken Clarke said it was rubbish… these things do have an effect on international confidence.

    James L – yes it would be interesting to see what people think of Mandy as PM..

  9. Anthony,

    Is it the same list of seats as the last time as I’d like to know what the Scottish seats are as they seem to give very close results to the standard polls where as I’d suspect in a marginal poll labour in Scotland to be doing worse than over 40%.

    Having said that with Labour on over 40% and the Libdems on under 10% it might just reflect the fact that there aren’t many Scottish marginals at all.


  10. Peter – yep, it will be the same seats. I don’t have the list to hand though.

  11. Clearly the blame heaped on the Banks has been borne out in this poll of marginals, and so it should be.

    I find it very surprising that given the fact that the Economy is currently in such a state with companies and jobs going to the wall in huge numbers and the perceived extreme unpopularity of the current Government that the Conservatives – on current form – are only heading for a 60 – 70 seat majority at the next GE.

    Unforetunately Mr Cameron appears to come across as a somewhat shrill and angry man and is always being negative. Granted the situation is very very bad at present, however the whole Country’s population are only fully aware of how dire the situation is and do not need to be constantly reminded. This may be the reason the Conservatives are not making headway comensurate with the current economic climate. A far more measured and positive message needs to be articulated by opposition politicians of. A bit more humility from the Government is needed too – maybe the mention of the ‘D’ word by Gordon Brown in todays PMQ’s (or should that be PMsQ’s??) is a slight and I mean slight sign of this.

    In the light of 61% of respondents in marginal seats in this poll blame the Banks for the dire economic situation it would be interesting to ask a question such as: Who do you blame for the current recession – Gordon Brown/ Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher/ John Major? and also:

    Which do you prefer – Captalism: Socialism: or a halfway house?

    Now the responses to the above two questions in the marginal seats and nationally would be very very interesting!

  12. Interesting findings. Clearly Labour in trouble, but as some have commented, not as much as you might expect, and clear doubts about Cameron.

    In terms of the question about whether the Tories are talking down the economy, I think oppositions must show extreme tactical nous, and Cameron/Osborne to date haven’t. The comparison between them and the altogether more thoughtful analysis of Vince Cable is frightening, and I thought Osborne’s ‘run on the pound’ speech was unutterably stupid.

  13. It was interesting to see that collectively only 25% view the money spent by the government in a positive manner. For 25% is the lowest that Labour have polled consistently for a significant period since Brown took over.

    It seems to me that 25 to 26% is Labour’s tough and resilient core voters. Only something like a rise in unemployment to 3 million might make these people change their minds.

    31 to 32% is what I would I would consider to be Labour’s semi-soft and fairly fragile core. And this is obviously where they are at now.

    Over the coming 6 months I’m guessing more will blame Labour more, and that they will sink to their resilient tough core of 25 to 26%. Only if things get as bad as the worst predictions might they sink eventually further.

  14. Labour’s ambitions may come down to attempting to deny the Conservatives an overall majority and then claiming that there’s “no mandate” for them to be in office. If a majority of 60 is predicted by these latest polls, that would mean the Tories are winning around 30 seats more than they need to win an overall majority, so maybe Labour should be looking at 30 semi-marginal seats where they may just be able to hang on and concentrate on those rather than defending those seats where they only have a very small majority.

  15. DC and GO do not impress as statesmen. They have no gravitas. They appear slick and insincere, simply looking for a headline with a glib quip. They put themselves before the well-being of Britain; how poorly they compare with Margaret Thatcher, Ted Heath, Ken Clarke or Vince Cable in their utterances. The next GE is theirs to lose, which they may well do unless they learn how to behave like mature statesmen. The Conservatives should be much further ahead in the polls at this stage of the parliament.

  16. Much will depend now on the success-or lack of it-of Brown’s monetary & fiscal interventions.

    He really needs to show that his measures have reduced the impact of the recession on people’s lives.

    Even if one believes that his measures have that capacity ,I’m not sure he has the time to demonstrate it before the GE.

    And he has to curb his constant inclination to tell it how he would wish it to be rather than how it is.

    Two thirds of people in this Poll believe that he is deceiving them about the economy .That’s a very poor platform for a GE campaign in which he will have to tell people how much their taxes will rise by & by how much Public Spending will need to be reigned in.

    The Tories will dismantle anything he says in a GE campaign ,unless he can retrieve some record of honesty & credibility.

  17. Todays PMQ’s – The Cons reaction to this is laughable -Firstly Cameron misses this open goal and doesn’t pick it up, in fact no Cons did – shows this PM in waiting how on the ball he is and how scripted Cameron is. And secondly, for the Cons to claim that Brown has to be careful with his language and how this can damage the economy – this from a party that has talked down every aspect of Britian at every opportunity and at every stage put oportunist party politics ahead of the good of the country – I shudder at the thought of these amatures running the country and anyone buying these Cons lies need an sanity test before being allowed to vote.

  18. Colin – there will also be a lot of dismantling on the tory side too – Cameron has said an awful lot of things that he’s now forgotten.

  19. The October poll was of 60 seats with the Tories within 6-14% of Labour.

    As the poll is of 2,000 people then it’s about 30 per seat which means the Scottish sample of about 100 probably covers only 3 seats.

    In that respect if it’s Scottish Labour/Tory marginals and only covers 1 seat in twenty it probably doesn’t tell us a lot about what’s happening in Scotland.


  20. It’s obviously difficult to know what to do from a Labour party point of view: have an election this year when thinks are very bad or wait to next year when they could be even worse. Gordon Brown would obviously like to spend an additional 50% of his current period of time in Downing Street because he might have more impact on the history textbooks that way, although it might of course be in an negative sense which might diminish some of his (arguable) achievements as chancellor.

  21. Chris – having just read that Labour will next month introduce legislation that will make photographing a policeman punishable by up to 10 years in prison, I think it’s those who vote Labour who need their heads examining.

    And as we are straying too far from the polls and I like to suck up to Anthony in a creepy, obsequious way, I’ll stop there.

  22. Hi James, I agree. I am in dispair about the Tories, but the authoritarian dendencies of this government (and TB’s before) are really worrying..

  23. “this from a party that has talked down every aspect of Britian at every opportunity and at every stage”

    The job of the Opposition is to say what they think is wrong-not to stand silently by.
    If the Tories think-as they do-that we have problems in our Education system, in our Law enforcement, in Social Justice etc.etc it is their job to say so, and to put forward alternatives, which they have done .

    Whether you “shudder” at the thought of the Conservatives coming to power is irrelevant since it is the will of the Electorate which will decide.
    Thus far Conservatives have had a Polling lead over the three years of Cameron’s leadership except for the brief three months following Brown’s coronation as PM.That would indicate that you are in a minority “shuddering wise”.

    With regard to the economy,anyone who wishes to do so may read independent reports in the world’s Press about the UK economy & it’s prospects.

    The consensus is that these prospects are not very good.

    The Opposition supported the initial Banking intervention, but have since disagreed with other elements of Brown’s counter-recessionary initiatives.

    Why should this be remarkable?
    There is intense Political debate & disagreement in USA & Germany for example about the advisability & content of Fiscal Stimuli.There is as much controversy about State Guarantees of Private Debt, Bad Banks, Interest Rate Policy-you name it.
    Why on earth would you expect it to be any different here?

    The truth is no one knows what effect these massive & unprecedented State Monetary & Fiscal interventions will have .

    Governments and Oppositions have both sounded incoherent through this period because this is not an exact science-much of it is guesswork-just read the papers.

    Whichever Party gains power in UK next year will have a massive task to return Public Finances to sustainability, and rebalance our economy after it’s disastrous over-reliance on the Financial Sector.

    The Public has to choose who they think will be best able to do this. For the Opposition simply to nod in aquiescence to every Government initiative would do no service to the Country-or to their own electoral prospects.

  24. @Colin: “Thus far Conservatives have had a Polling lead over the three years of Cameron’s leadership except for the brief three months following Brown’s coronation as PM.That would indicate that you are in a minority “shuddering wise”.”

    Come on – we’re on a polling website guys, so should be able to add up!! ((For the record, at no point have the Tories had a sustainable lead of 50%+, therefore there is in fact a *majority* “shuddering wise”))

  25. Interesting arithmetic concept OSBAK.

    I was under a distinct impression that the for the period of time to which I refered, more of the people consulted in the Polls covered on this site said they would vote Conservative, than said they would vote Labour.

  26. I notice a distinct increase in the amount of vitriole and personal abuse aimed by some of this sites ‘lefties’ at Cameron and Osbourne in recent weeks.

    I suspect this is a result of the frustration you all feel at your impending electoral doom.

    One thing to bear in mind though. If you don’t accept any wrong on your side and continue to slag the opposition when large swathes of the electorate have begun to trust them then, even when you have a valid point, you can appear irrelevant. As happened to the Tories after ’97 for… a decade!

  27. Ivan the terrible….?
    Complacency is no good for The Tories, any more than denial is good for Labour.

    In what ways are Cameron and Osborne regarded as “relevant”? Given the tasty slice at the end of Anthony’s piece, if I were Ken Clarke’s family, I’d be worrying about the amount of time he’s going to be spending with them in the coming year.

  28. “In what ways are Cameron and Osborne regarded as “relevant”? ”

    From people Polled on the subject recently :-

    ICM 25/Jan:-
    Better able to manage economy “properly” -37% (GB.AD 35%)
    Effect of return of KC on likelihood to vote Con-
    No Difference 79%

    YG 29/Jan
    Best Prime Minister :-DC 35% ( GB 27%)
    DC as Leader of Cons-Good 46% ( Not good 34%)
    Prefer Government led by DC or GB:-DC 46% ( GB 38%)
    Party most likely to run Britains economy”well”:-
    Cons 36% ( Lab 28%)

    Pretty close sometimes-but certainly relevant.

    Speaking personally:-

    Management of the Public Finances
    Education Policy
    Social Policy ( includes a few things!)
    Monetary Policy

    in that order.

  29. So most agree with me that they are almost as irrelevant as Brown and Osborne et al.

    And so it should be. it’s time people took more personal responsibility for their fortunes or lack of them.

    If they do scrape a 50 seat majority, it won’t be long before the electorate are blaming the tories for all their woes.

    Amongst Tory voters they backed Ken by 46% to 28% for George.

    That says an awful lot to me about the relevance of GO

  30. Yawn.

    The amount of vitriol being directed at DC/GO may have grown, but I suspect it still has someway to go before it can reach the heights of scorn poured on GB/AD through these pages. I stopped reading this blog for a while for that very reason. Nontheless two wrongs don’t necessarily make a right.

  31. James Ludlow – Do I take you’ve read that in the Mail or the Express? Must be true then!

    Further example of sanity tests for Con voting unfortunates.

  32. Ken Clarke will always have better recognition than Osborne because he likes talking to the media and Osborne appears to avoid it like the plague.
    My friend who’s a big GB fan was rather shocked by his Davos speech – she said she thought he said he knew what he was doing.

  33. With neither the Labour nor the Conservative leadership doing well in the eyes of the public perhaps the Lib Dems will seize the opportunity as we come closer to the general election.

    I do confess I do hope for a truly 3 party political situation which I think would generate a healthier democratic enviroment.

    A hung parliament could make this happen. But there is very little chance of that happening. Slightly more probable is that the Lib Dems at least in terms of percentage of votes could beat Labour into third place.

    Labour have a 15% lead over the Lib Dems. But, if things get as bad as the worst predictions, things may change radically. Admittedly, we are a long way off from that and it would be a terrible price to pay for it.

  34. Any chance of a poll asking whether people agree with Clarkson’s opinion of the PM?

  35. @ Chris – no, I read it in The British Journal of Photography. As you can imagine. we photographers are rather concerned about it. I don’t read the Mail of the Express. Care to add any further comment?

  36. More contortions at the BBC no doubt-

    Top Gear ratings vs Offensive remarks about the PM…what to do?

    The Ross approach rather than Thatcher methinks.

  37. Well, given that the PM has two eyes, anyone agreeing with Clarkson is demonstrably wrong.

  38. Is “one-eyed Scottish idiot” a Racist remark?

  39. James – the ethics of photographers’ activity in the 21st Century is a subject that is well worth discussing, but not here in any great detail, I’m afraid.

    Do police officers suffer from an increased threat to their safety now that photographs can be distributed to any-one in an instant? And if so, to what extent should we frame legislation to counter such an increase in the threat to their safety?

    It’s a bit more complicated than the threat to comedians’ freedom that surfaced a year or so ago.

  40. Colin – surely it would only be offensive to an idiot?

  41. Hi Colin.. depends what you mean by racist, but I would say that in the context of Jeremy Clarkson, it probably is. If he had said ‘one-eyed Asian/jewish idiot’ I think this would be a different discussion.

    Not that I am in favour of people losing their jobs for causing offence, but they need to be prepared to be condemned.

  42. John-maybe so-but I was more interested in the potential for Racism in the remark.

    It is complicated since there are two combinations of epithets which potentialy involve “Race” ( though again-are Scots any more a “Race” than “Black people” ?)

    Scottish + one-eyed
    Scottish +idiot

    I exclude the third combination :-
    One-eyed + idiot
    , since though this may arguably be “eyeist”-or indeed prejudiced against mental handicap, it cannot I think be Racist.

    It is all very difficult -no doubt the BBC is consulting it’s copious references on the subject as we speak.

  43. Alasdair:-
    “depends what you mean by racist, ”

    Indeed so.
    I never use the phrase if I can avoid it because the word is meaningless without reference to the precise nature of the racial prejudice expressed, the context & intent of the remarks and whether offence was both proffered and received.

  44. @ John TT – yes, this isn’t really the right forum for this discussion so a couple of brief points. Firstly, I cannot think of a single incident in which a policeman’s safety has been compromised because of a photograph. Policemen are already readily identifiable because of their uniforms, public activities, and their own PR and media activities. They are not secret agents or members of the SAS. Secondly, if the incoming legislation was to be enforced to the letter it would render it effectively illegal to take photographs anywhere that a policeman might be caught on camera – demonstrations, festivals and so on.

  45. James – I agree with you on the compromised safety issue (I think), as i don’t know of any policemen who like to keep their occupation secret from the neighbours.

    Colin – I was making a little joke at GB’s expense. (Good job I don’t work for the BBC!)

  46. John-you really must be more carefull about what you say!

  47. I get the impression that Clarkson is quite popular with exactly the kind of C2’s that all the parties are fighting over.

    That said it can only be a bad thing for Labour for him to be openly deriding their leader.

    As far as the comment is concerned I don’t think anyone could disagree that ‘one eyed scottish idiot’ compares rather favorably with some of the character assasination dished out to either Thatcher in her heyday or more recently, say, George Bush?


    “As far as the comment is concerned I don’t think anyone could disagree that ‘one eyed scottish idiot’ compares rather favorably with some of the character assasination dished out to either Thatcher in her heyday or more recently, say, George Bush?”

    February 6th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Thats not the point. No matter what an individuals opinion is of Gordon Brown such comments constitute a damn rude personal insult.

    Clarkson should withdraw his comment NOW!

  49. What is interesting to me is that this is now being spun as a ‘disability’ insult (one-eyed) rather than ‘race’ insult.. Funny how these things go…

    Personally I think that all Prime Ministers shoud be treated with a certian amount of respect, and disagreements should not be personal. But hey, it is Clarkson, he thrives on this sort of thing so I won’t worry about it too much!!

  50. But it IS the point James.

    If you want REAL abuse just take a look at what they’re saying about him in the blogospere!

    In my life, and doubtless yours too, I have been both the subject and the perpetrator of various ‘damn rude personal insults’. Why should GB be any different?

    The Daily Mirror published this headline last month;

    “George W Bush’s legacy: The global village idiot”
    With an accompanying story containing various nasty, personal and also racial, mostly unsubstantiated, claims of a derisory manner.

    Did you leap out of your pram at this abuse?
    No. I wonder why?

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